A career with a future

Posted: Feb 08, 2006 12:05 AM
As some of you may be aware, I’m a plaintiff in a class action lawsuit that accuses motion picture studios, TV networks and Hollywood talent agencies, of practicing ageism against scriptwriters. Although I have every confidence that we will eventually triumph in the courts, assuming any of us lives long enough, if I had it all to do over again, I’d have gone into a different line of work. One that didn’t have obsolescence built into the job description. Hindsight, as they say, is 20/20. Had I only known way back then what I know now, I’d have become a dictator.

The fact is, my high school counselor never thought to mention it, and I’d never really given it any thought until I read an article by David Wallechinsky titled “The World’s 10 Worst Dictators.” The list, he explains, was compiled after polling Human Rights Watch, Freedom House, Amnesty International, and Reporters Without Borders.

What makes the profession so darn appealing to me isn’t the opportunity to live high off the hog even in countries where hogs live better than people or the opportunity to win every argument or even the fact that even my worst jokes could be counted upon to elicit big laughs from millions of people. No, what caught my aging eye were their ages. Of the 10, the oldest was Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Abdullah, who’s 81, and still going strong. The Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir and Pakistan’s Pervez Musharraf are the kids in the group, and they’re both 61! In fact, the average age of the guys is 67.

Perhaps the most encouraging fact for someone like myself, a fellow in his 60s looking for gainful employment, is that no special education is called for and you don’t have to start when you’re young. While it’s true that Teodoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea took office when he was 36 and Libya’s Muammar al-Qaddafi was a mere 26, on average, the other eight guys were 56 when they began their careers as dictators.

Interestingly, about the only prerequisite I could spot was that they all seemed to have tongue-twisting names. And, in my experience, most people have a pretty hard time with Prelutsky.

As we all know, Hitler, before he became der fuhrer, aspired to be an architect. One can only wonder if a few early commissions had come his way if the world would have been spared the horrors of the Third Reich. Which leads me to wonder if perhaps some movie studio put Kim Jong Il under contract to write a screenplay, possibly with the chance to direct, we might quickly defuse the current situation in North Korea. He is awfully theatrical, after all, and I very much doubt that he could do any worse than “Gigli.”

Getting back to me, I’m not suggesting if I were to become a dictator, I could ever hope to compete with the likes of China’s Hu Jintao, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe or Turkmenistan’s Saparmurat Niyazov, for crying out loud! That would be as arrogant as a rookie hurler’s describing himself as the next Sandy Koufax or Nolan Ryan. I could only promise to do my best. Or my worst, as the case might be.

I’m not so full of myself that I believe I could just step in and do the kind of work for which these fellows are so well known. After all, when it comes to murder and mayhem, I’d be a mere babe in the woods. But even if I never cracked the top 10, I could take some comfort in the fact that even Fidel Castro, who’s been at it since 1959, had to settle for a dishonorable mention.